The Missing Piece Of the Affordable Care Act That Would Make It Fair For the Poor

Source: AP
Source: AP

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is officially here. It is time for liberals to discuss how to make it better because, truthfully, it still needs a lot of work before it can accomplish its goal of providing affordable health insurance to all Americans. The news coverage of the ACA has been extremely negative. It is apparent people are pretty upset about the news they are hearing over and over again. For instance, Healthcare.gov is not working. Some of the currently insured might not be able to keep their current plans. The exchanges will offer expensive health care options. 2014 will likely be a year spent experimenting with the new exchanges and the federal guidelines that have many insurance companies scrambling to get organized. For all these reasons, the penalty for those who do not sign up for insurance should not go into effect until 2015.

Don’t forget about the uninsured. Deductibles? Out of pocket? Premiums? For me, health care is going to the emergency room and that was only when it got bad. I haven’t seen a doctor since 2011 and it certainly wasn’t to get an annual check-up. Universal health care is a phenomenal idea but it isn’t fair to expect low-income communities to choose an option that would benefit them the most without providing education on how insurance works and, more importantly, how subsidies will help defray its costs. I had Medicaid growing up but my insurance became ineffective once I turned 19. Since then, my medical necessities did not seem worth the cost of insurance. Why would simply going to a website and choosing the cheapest plan guarantee me affordable health care when chances are, I would have to choose a plan that has a low premium and a high deductible? I wouldn’t be able to afford to go to the doctor, anyway.

I would rather pay the penalty.

We have to invest in education programs that explain different options, including insurance programs such as Medicaid and other government funded insurance. Unfortunately for Texans, Governor Perry did not expand Medicaid, a key ACA initiative, which would have covered more low-income residents. Texans will have to choose from the options in the health care exchanges which could mean very few low-cost benefits and high premiums. There are subsidies that will help us pay for plans, reducing the cost of premiums by up to 50% every month. In other words, it will be possible to purchase insurance with high premiums and low deductibles on a limited budget.

I am tremendously elated that the ACA has passed and will launch in 2014. However, let’s be clear about the relevant issues. The ACA was intended to assist in providing affordable health insurance to all Americans; this includes someone like me who can’t afford another bill at the end of the month. I want health insurance I can afford and to be able to use when I need it. The ACA penalty should be postponed because it will give people like me a chance to catch up with the rest of insured Americans. 

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Maribel Hermosillo

Maribel Hermosillo is a contributor for PolicyMic's Identities column covering racial justice and feminism. Maribel has written for Rh Reality Check, Strong Families, The San Antonio Current, Yes Ma’am, Brown Queen and The Arts United of San Antonio. Maribel graduated from the University of Texas at San Antonio with a focus on American Studies and Mexican-American Studies. Maribel's experience as a first generation queer woman of color deeply informs her writing and poetry. Maribel likes to take long reflective walks on mountains, hills and wooded areas. She resides in San Antonio, Texas.

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